The Spiritual Work of the United Nations and the Liberation of Humanity

Taurus Festival (Wesak), May 5, 2001

Freedom from Fear

Beginning with this auspicious and most spiritual day of the year, we are initiating a new aspect to our monthly public meditation meetings in support of the United Nations. Previous to doing the meditation, we are going to take a brief look at the work of the UN through the filter of these four freedoms. Each month we will address one of the freedoms as an attempt to educate ourselves about the progress the UN is or is not making in fulfilling the mandate, which first brought it into existence.

Tonight we will focus on Freedom from Fear. Freedom from fear, in context of the work of the United Nations, refers to disarmament and peacekeeping. President Roosevelt referred to freedom from fear as a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation would be able to aggressively attack any of its neighbors.

In the words of the United Nations Charter, The United Nations was founded in order "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war."

Meeting this challenge is one of the most important functions of the Organization, and to a very significant degree it has been the yardstick with which the Organization has been judged by the peoples it exists to serve. Over the last decade, the U N has repeatedly failed to meet this challenge, and it is not doing much better today.

Needed are a renewed commitment on the part of Member States, significant institutional change and increased financial support. Without these changes, the UN will not be able to fulfill this pivotal goal.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recently asked an independent panel on UN Peace Operations to assess the UN's shortcomings in this important area of its work. Dorothy Tilson is going to give us a brief summary of the findings of this panel and provide a brief update about the UN's role in creating a planetary climate free from fear.

Dorothy R. Tilson

In connection with the Millennium Summit, the Security Council on 7 September 2000 met at the level of Heads of State and Government for the second time in its history. Following an extended debate, the world leaders-9 Presidents, 5 Prime Ministers and 1 Foreign Minister-unanimously adopted a Declaration on ensuring an effective role for the Security Council in the maintenance of international peace, particularly in Africa. The Council identified pressing social and economic problems. Among the problems-proposals for improving United Nations peacekeeping performance, especially those contained in the recent Report of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations, were widely endorsed by the leaders, who drew particular attention to the Report's call for bolstering UN capacity to deploy effectively.

Strongly endorsing the report, United States President Bill Clinton said: "We must do more to equip the United Nations to do what we ask it to do. Until we confront the iron link between deprivation, disease and war, we will never be able to create the peace that the founders of the United Nations dream of."

What was this report?

In March 2000, Secretary-General Kofi Annan set up an independent panel to make "a clear set of recommendations on how to do better in future in the whole range of United Nations activities in the area of peace and security." Chaired by former Algerian Foreign Minister Lakhdar Brahimi, the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations included members from all six continents, with wide experience in humanitarian, development and police work, as well as military peacekeeping.

Their report was released 23 August 2000. The Panel stressed that "without renewed commitment on the part of Member States, significant institutional change and increased financial support," the United Nations would not be capable of executing the critical peacekeeping and peace-building tasks that are at the core of its mission: ""o save succeeding generations from the scourge of war."" The Panel concurred that consent of the local parities, impartiality and the use of force only in self-defense should remain the bedrock principles of peacekeeping. Experience showed, however, that in the context of intra-State or transnational conflicts, consent could be manipulated in many ways.

The Panel recommended that Headquarters' support for peacekeeping be treated as a core activity of the United Nations, and as such the majority of its resource requirements should be funded through the regular budget of the Organization. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations and other offices that plan and support peacekeeping are currently primarily funded by the Support Account, which is renewed each year and funds temporary posts only.

You have a copy of the Executive Summary which explains the proceedings of the Panel on UN Peacekeeping Operations together with the 20 categorical summary of their recommendations.

Progress so far--

The Secretary-General set up the Panel after publishing two reports highlighting United Nations failure to prevent genocide in Rwanda in 1994 and to protect the inhabitant of Srebrenica (Bosnia and Herzegovina) in 1995. On 23 August, Mr. Annan, in letters forwarding the Panel's report to the General Assembly and the Security Council, announced that he had asked his Deputy, Luise Frechete, to follow up on implementing its recommendations and submit an action plan for the Assembly to consider during the current regular session. He also hoped the report would receive attention from world leaders at the Millennium Summit.

On 27 September, 2000, the Security Council held its first consultations on the independent Panel's recommendations. It was briefed by Deputy Secretary-General Frechette and the Panel's Chairman, Ambassador Brahimi. In a presidential statement, the Council said it agreed on the importance of the Panel's recommendations. While supporting the "general thrust" of the report's recommendations, the Council agreed that further discussion was needed and decided to establish a working group, which would present to the Council specific recommendations for action by the end of October.

On 30 October 2000, the Secretary-General presented the first outline of financial resources needed to implement the far-reaching changed proposed by the independent Panel. In his report to the General Assembly, Mr. Annan said that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations would be substantially reinforced and strengthened, while other entities supporting peace operations would also receive a boost, including the Electoral Assistant Division of the Department of Political Affairs and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The plan calls for an increase of 249 support staff at a cost of 422 million. Under-Secretary -General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guehenno called the proposals "an emergency package", addressing only the most critical needs. Other recommendation in the report would require further study. Currently, there are 15 ongoing peacekeeping operations, with some 38,000 military personnel and civilian police, as well as some 3,300 international and 8,500 local civilian personnel.

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[1] From United Nations Chronicle, Volume XXXVII, Number 3, 2000.

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